Josh Smith still the story for the Atlanta Hawks

USA TODAY Sports

Even though the trade deadline has passed, Josh Smith's upcoming free agency is still the No. 1 topic by visiting media.

Its got be a little tiring to be Josh Smith. After all his Atlanta Hawks have lost five of six games and are still in the middle of the playoff race in what in many ways is a transitional year for the franchise. Yet, Smith is bombarded nightly about his impending free agency and in many cases from writers from other cities whose teams would love to have Smith but won't have the cap space to make it happen.

Caution I know not what context any of these quotes by Smith were given and its important to recognize that. Earlier this season when Smith said that he thought of himself as a max player that was taken and twisted by many into him demanding a max contract from the Hawks.

Up first is Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News who quotes Smith as saying that sometimes it is difficult to play in Atlanta:

"It is a little difficult (playing in Atlanta)," said Smith, an Atlanta native. "Last year like I was telling everybody, we were ranked No. 1 worst sports town in the United States. It was just the whole city, baseball, football - but football always has a crazy fanbase - it is a little bit difficult. But hopefully we can turn it around sooner than later."

Of course my favorite part of the article is how he points out that Smith made that statement just hours before the Hawks played the Brooklyn Nets in a "half empty Philips Arena." In case you are wondering, Saturday's announced attendance was 17,282 and while you might not believe that number, it was one of the times where it was definitely a pro Hawks crowd which isn't always the case.

In closing Bondy asked Smith about the Nets who were a mainstay in trade rumors surrounding Smith right up until the deadline.

"That's a pretty good team," Smith said about Brooklyn. "They have a lot of talent. The organization has definitely been turned around by the owner they have. They're a good team. We're a good team too. Who knows what would have happened, but it didn't happen. I'm here. So I just have to focus on what I can do in order for us to keep succeeding and keep getting better."

In my most sarcastic tone ever that sounds like Smith is beating down the door of the Barclays Center and begging Billy King to let him play with the Nets.

Next up is Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe. Washburn talked to Smith about his critics but also touched on the max player issue:

"It's never enough for the critics, but at the end of the day, I am not out here to please them," he said. "I'm here to please my peers and the people that play with me.

"I'm respected in the NBA as far as the players are concerned. I know I'm a highly attractive player and all I can do is keep playing confident, hold my head high, and not really worry about what the naysayers and haters say."

Washburn of course can't resist taking a shot at the Atlanta Hawks whom he calls an "insignificant franchise" (spoken like a true Celtic) but once again twists Smith's max player comment even though Josh explains it pretty clearly to him.

"I didn't just come up and make the statement that I was [a maximum player] - it was a question that I was asked," he said. "I gave an honest answer. It's not added pressure. I'm not going around just stating that. It was definitely a question.

Now to clarify, I don't think Washburn thought anything about his insignificant remark. After all the Hawks are pretty insignificant in the Celtics' eyes. The two franchises have gone head to head many times but Atlanta has yet to come out on top in any playoff series.

The dismissiveness from the Nets however I don't understand. Its like they are suddenly the place to be in the NBA even though they haven't made the playoffs since the 2007 season. There are countless examples in the NBA that simply spending money doesn't guarantee success but I digress. They are a talented team but they look awful similar to this writer at least, as the Hawks of the last five seasons that were a second round playoff team at best. They aren't challenging the Heat and I don't think they'd be favored in a playoff series with Indiana, Boston or Chicago especially if Derrick Rose returns. And their long term financial outlook? Well that is surely its own column.

The funny thing is both the Celtics and the Nets would love to have Josh Smith on their team going forward. In Brooklyn where they are running out the likes of Reggie Evans nightly, Smith might have been enough to push them up a level where they could compete with the East's elite. In Boston he would have been a nice bridge as the old guard is slowly phased out.

In closing expect more of the same over the remainder of the regular season. Josh Smith is the story and will continue to be. Just be ready when the story gets all jumbled up.

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